Female paramedic describes sex assault horror: ‘They were covered in blood trying to kiss me’

A female paramedic has described how she was pinned up against an ambulance by a person “covered in blood” and sexually assaulted.

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 4:25 pm
The new campaign to tackle the abuse of ambulance staff has been backed by trade unions

She was speaking after the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) revealed 600 incidents of abuse and assaults on ambulance personnel have been reported in the past year — including attacks that involved weapons.

A new campaign has been launched by the NIAS and trade unions to tackle the problem.

Ashleen McClaren, a paramedic based at Altnagelvin Hospital, described her experiences.

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“I’ve had people threaten to end my life,” she told BBC Radio Foyle.

“I’ve been punched – once in the eye and I had a black eye, and once in the mouth. I’ve been sexually assaulted as well.”

She continued: “The sexual assault was actually the one that I felt the most. The person that done it was covered in blood. They were trying to kiss my face. They had me pinned up against the back of the ambulance and they were trying to kiss me, and they were kissing the side of my face.

“It leaves you feeling very violated, uncomfortable. It stays with me the most. It leaves you feeling very vulnerable.”

Ambulance service chief executive Michael Bloomfield said: “I am appalled at the number of incidents of abuse and assault that have been recorded in the past year.

“There is absolutely no justification for any assaults on NIAS staff.

“They have dedicated themselves to caring for and protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

“They often do so at considerable personal sacrifice in terms of time spent with family and friends. In the past year they have been at the forefront of the battle against the Covid pandemic.”

Mr Bloomfield added: “They work long hours and they are exhausted. They deserve our respect and thanks and yet abuse against them is on the rise.”

Health Minister Robin Swann is backing the campaign.

“It’s appalling that people who dedicate themselves to caring for others and saving lives are being subjected to verbal and physical abuse, including sexual assault,” he said.

“I have been shocked to hear about the weapons used to attack NIAS staff and the increase in the terrible, traumatic abuse they have received. It is absolutely unacceptable and we will not tolerate it.

“As a society, we have worked together to defeat the virus. Now we must rally round our ambulance staff and give them our full support. The message is clear: stop the abuse now.”

Officials from the Nipsa, Unite and Unison trade unions also condemned the abuse.

The ambulance service said attacks occur most frequently on Saturdays, between 8pm and midnight, and that males are responsible for the majority of incidents that have been recorded.